Having lived in Denver almost seven years now, I consider myself a bit of a Colorado connoisseur. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the state from the major tourist hot spots to the hidden gems and while I’ll always prefer summer, ski season is obviously a big draw to the Rocky Mountains. With 20+ ski resorts spread across the Front Range, if you’re itching for a powder day and only have a few days to get away, how do you know where to head?
The truth is, there’s no real way to rank Colorado’s ski resorts, it’s totally personal preference. Some people want epic powder and established resorts, some want amenities, some want convenience or beginner terrain, and some prefer epic back bowls. But here’s the best for whatever you’re looking for on the slopes.
The Best Ski Resort for Beginners (Bunny Hills and Green Runs) – Eldora Mountain Resort
Despite being on the Ikon pass, Eldora has a true mom and pop feel and is a great place to learn to ski. Right outside Boulder, it’s an easy day trip from Denver, and with only 10,000 feet of elevation, it can feel far less intimidating than the bigger resorts in Summit County, which makes it a good place to build up your confidence in the Rockies. If you give it a try and realize downhill skiing isn’t for you, they also have one of the most robust Nordic ski centers in the state so you can still enjoy winter outdoors without hurtling down a mountain.
The Best Ski Resort for Intermediate Skiers (Blue Runs) – Copper Mountain
As someone who came from the flatlands of the Midwest and will never be an expert shredder (I’ve long accepted it), Copper is my personal favorite Colorado ski resort. Beyond being much more of a local secret than say Vail or Breck, the terrain at Copper is naturally organized by color so all the green runs are together, all the blue runs are together, and the more difficult runs are together. If it’s happened to you, you know how harrowing it is to get stuck on a run that’s way beyond your ability, which is virtually impossible to do here. Plus, they have a mac and cheese bar, which is obviously what sold me.
The Best Ski Resort for Experts – Silverton Mountain Ski Area
A number of major ski pubs agree that while fairly unknown, Silverton is one of the most challenging ski resorts in Colorado. Home to more than 1,500 acres of expert terrain that reaches up to 13,487 feet, it’s the highest ski area in North America. With just one lift, don’t expect groomers and clean lines. It’s raw, rugged terrain that would normally be considered backcountry only. And as a bonus? Their total snowfall averages over 400 inches, which far exceeds their daily number of visitors. If you want even more of a winter bucket list adventure, they also have on-site heli-skiing.
The Best Ski Resort for a Long Weekend – Telluride Ski Resort
What feels like world’s away, Telluride is enveloped by the San Juan Mountains, which you may recognize from being immortalized on the Coors Light cans. About a six-hour drive from Denver, Telluride combines epic skiing with Wild West vibes, and while modern amenities abound, touches of the old mining days still are evident. Despite regularly being voted one of the best ski towns in the country, it still manages to fly under the radar of since it’s so remote. The resort has more vertical feet than Vail yet half the hotel capacity if that tells you anything.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Telluride
The Best Ski Resort for Families – Snowmass Ski Resort
The less pretentious side of Aspen, Snowmass’s VIK (Very Important Kid) program is great for families. Drop them off at the Treehouse Adventure Center for free daily activities from ice skating and s’mores to guided nature walks and storytelling at the Ice Age Discovery Center. Snowmass averages just two skiers per acre so there’s plenty of room to fall – and get back up – without worry. Since it’s a bit of a hike (about 3.5 hours from Denver) it’s worth making a weekend out of it. Rent your gear here.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Aspen-Snowmass
The Best Ski Resort for the Non-Skier – Breckenridge Ski Resort
There are a lot of great ski towns in Colorado, and many have things to do for non-skiers, but Breck really has it all for an epic winter getaway off the slopes. Beyond a completely walkable downtown full of award-winning restaurants and après establishments, Breckenridge Brewery and Breckenridge Distillery are two of the must-drink spots in the state. If you’re looking for daytime activities, there are plenty of ways to get active without skiing like snowshoeing, snowcat rides, snowmobiling, and even dogsledding. If you’re craving views, there’s a free scenic gondola ride up the mountain and spas to relax and rejuvenate. Just make sure your ski rental also comes with a hot tub.
The Best Ski Resort for Snowboarders – Winter Park Resort
Winter Park is unanimously a favorite of snowboarders for having not just one, but seven terrain parks. Home to one massive superpipe and more than 80 features that are constantly being re-jigged, it’s a mecca for shredders looking to rip. For the history buffs, Winter Park also happens to be Colorado’s longest continually operating ski resort.
The Best Ski Resort for a Luxury Getaway – Beaver Creek Resort
You may immediately think Aspen for the most luxurious ski resort in Colorado, but insiders know Beaver Creek is the less touristy, bougie option. From the moment you step foot in the village full of escalators and freshly baked cookies to sugar shacks on the mountain, it’s white glove service the whole way. Expect fine-dining, world-class spas, upscale boutiques, and concierge service.
The Best Ski Resort for Backcountry – Vail Resort
Vail’s seven Back Bowls are legendary. Unmarked, unpatrolled, and vast with vertical, they offer skiers the ultimate challenge with ever-changing conditions. The Back Bowls alone comprise more skiable acres—3,017—than most entire ski resorts in North America. They aren’t visible from any major town and are completely variable depending on the weather so make sure you know what you’re doing before you get in over your head (pun intended).
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